#OTD in 1897 – James Connolly is arrested and detained overnight for organising a series of protests over Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

But time at last makes all things even,
And if we do but watch the hour,
There never yet was human power
That could evade, if unforgiven,
The patient hate and vigil long,
Of those who treasure up a wrong.

British capitalism was a dominant world power, still expanding. It policed the world for imperial power with wars across the world on a yearly basis often in a bloody way. Queen Victoria’s Jubilee was a celebration of imperial power; she sat at the head of a realm of 450 million souls, stretched across every continent.

James Connolly called the Jubilee a “feast of flunkyism” and wrote: “Join your voice with ours in protesting against the base assumption that we owe to this empire any other debt than that of hatred of all its plundering institutions.”

There were a series of anti-Jubilee protests in Dublin organised by socialists including, James Connolly, which led to rioting. The Irish nationalist MP John Redmond proposed an amendment to the Loyal Address to the Queen outlining the destruction her reign had caused in Ireland back to the Great Hunger and before.

A march was held across the city, with a mock coffin draped in a black cloth with the words British Empire embroidered on it. Maud Gonne organised the production of a series of black flags, on which were written statistics of the famines/starvations, evictions and other social disasters that had taken place in Ireland during the long reign of Queen Victoria. The coffin was eventually thrown into the River Liffey, with Connolly reportedly shouting as it entered the water, “Here goes the coffin of the British Empire.” He was arrested and detained overnight. According to J. L. Hyland in his book James Connolly, for Connolly this demonstration had nothing to do with chauvinistic feelings against Britain; rather it was a clear socialist republican attack on monarchy, empire and capitalism.

Maud Gonne paid James Connolly’s fine to have him released from prison.

James Connolly and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee

Photo colourised by 1916 Easter Revolution in Colour

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